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3 men guilty of murdering 5 people in Leicester shop explosion

Three men who caused a huge shop explosion which killed five people in a botched £300,000 insurance scam have been found guilty of murder.

Store owner Aram Kurd, 33, Arkan Ali, 37, and Hawkar Hassan, 32, are facing life in jail after being convicted by a jury today following a five-week trial.

The devastating blast obliterated the Zabka Polish supermarket in Leicester on February 25.

A court artist’s sketch of (from left) Hussan, Ali and Kurd in the dock at Leicester Crown Court

Mary Ragoobar (centre) and two of her sons, Sean (left) and Shane (right), were killed

Mary Ragoobar (centre) and two of her sons, Sean (left) and Shane (right), were killed

Viktorija Ljevleva, 22

Shane's girlfriend, Leah Reek (pictured together)

Viktorija Ijevleva (left) and Shane’s girlfriend, Leah Reek (right, pictured together), also died

A court heard the scheming trio callously caused the explosion by dousing the shop in ‘many, many litres of petrol’ which sent a fireball tearing through the building.

Care worker Mary Ragoobeer, 46, and her two sons Shane, 18, and Sean, 17, perished in the inferno at their two-storey flat above the store.

Leah Beth Reek, 18, from Melton Mowbray, Leicestershire, who was Shane’s girlfriend, and shop worker Viktorija Ljevleva, 22, of Oldham, were also killed.

Ali, Kurd and Hassan were convicted of five counts of murder as well as conspiracy to commit fraud after a jury deliberated for 11 hours and 20 minutes.

The jury was previously told the men caused the massive blast "out of greed" so they could fork in hundreds of thousands of pounds from a bogus insurance claim

The jury was previously told the men caused the massive blast ‘out of greed’ so they could fork in hundreds of thousands of pounds from a bogus insurance claim

Molly Reek pays tribute to her late sister Leah outside Leicester Crown Court today

Molly Reek pays tribute to her late sister Leah outside Leicester Crown Court today

The devastating blast obliterated the Zabka Polish supermarket in Leicester on February 25

The devastating blast obliterated the Zabka Polish supermarket in Leicester on February 25

The three men had previously claimed for loss of stock, contents and future loss of business before the explosion took place

The three men had previously claimed for loss of stock, contents and future loss of business before the explosion took place

The three men showed no emotion in the dock at Leicester Crown Court while the verdicts were read out. Family members of the victims wept in the public gallery. 

Timeline of the callous shop explosion plot 

Late January: Viktorija Ijevleva and Arkan Ali visit an insurance brokers in Oldham but fail to get the shop cover

Early February: Along with Hawkar Hassan, they visit another insurance company in Oldham – returning five days later to finalise their cover

February 21: Ms Ijevleva and Ali drive to Leicester and they inspect rubbish in the rear yard. Ali moves a CCTV camera away from the basement steps. They are then caught on camera buying smoke alarms from B&Q and white spirit from a Wilko store.

February 23: Ali, Hassan and Ms Ijevleva set off from Coventry towards Leicester, stopping at a petrol station where Hassan filled up a container with 26 litres of unleaded petrol. The car they were driving was a diesel

February 25 afternoon: Ms Ijevleva walks to the supermarket and is in mobile phone contact with Ali, Hassan and Kurd who are in the city centre.

6.10pm: Kurd rejoins Ms Ijevleva in the shop, and Ali and Hassan are seen in the local area, waiting for darkness

6.30pm: Ali walks towards the back of the supermarket

7pm: Cameras pick up Ali leaving the rear of the shop, where someone had lowered the shutters at the entrance

7.10pm: The petrol is ignited, causing the explosion and fire which killed five

Today: Kurd, Ali and Hassan are convicted at court of murder and plotting to claim insurance payout

January 18: Trio due to be sentenced

Speaking outside court, Ms Reek’s sister Molly said: ‘A light went out of our world on that terrible night, and it is so difficult to put into words how much we miss Leah.

‘She was an amazing, inspirational young lady who was just starting out on her life adventure. Leah made a lasting impression on everybody lucky enough to know her.

‘She was beautiful inside and out and she truly shone when she entered a room. She was never aware of the impact that she had on so many just by smiling at them.

‘We will always miss her smile, her laughter and those beautiful curls. Her happy outlook on life was contagious.’

The jury was previously told the men caused the massive blast ‘out of greed’ so they could fork in hundreds of thousands of pounds from a bogus insurance claim.

It was claimed they were fully aware that Ms Ljevleva, who was in on the scam, would perish in the explosion but let her die anyway as ‘she knew too much’.

The three men had previously claimed for loss of stock, contents and future loss of business before the explosion took place. 

Scotty Ragoobeer, 15-year-old brother of Shane and Sean, was rescued from the rubble and survived. Passerby Thomas Lindop, 56, was also seriously injured.

CCTV and traffic camera footage released by police at the end of the trial shows people escaping from a nearby takeaway moments after the explosion, and rubble being blasted into the roadway as cars pass by.

Footage recovered by police from a neighbouring business showed Ali in shot three days before the blast – moments before the camera angle was moved. 

CCTV footage released by police shows rubble being blasted into the roadway as cars pass by

CCTV footage released by police shows rubble being blasted into the roadway as cars pass by

CCTV shows people escaping from a nearby takeaway moments after the explosion

CCTV shows people escaping from a nearby takeaway moments after the explosion

Kurd (circled) was recorded on a camera as he escaped from the scene at the rear of the shop 

Kurd (circled) was recorded on a camera as he escaped from the scene at the rear of the shop 

Hassan fills a petrol can. Around 26 litres of petrol was used to start the fire in the basement

Hassan fills a petrol can. Around 26 litres of petrol was used to start the fire in the basement

Further images from the same CCTV unit a day before the fire showed a gloved hand moving the camera angle again – at a time when all three defendants were nearby.

‘A light went out of our world’: Family’s tribute to ‘beautiful’ victim 

Molly Reek paid this tribute to her late sister Leah outside Leicester Crown Court following the verdicts today:

Molly Reek (left, outside court today) lost her sister Leah (right) in the horror blaze

‘A light went out of our world on that terrible night, and it is so difficult to put into words how much we miss Leah.

‘She was an amazing, inspirational young lady who was just starting out on her life adventure. Leah made a lasting impression on everybody lucky enough to know her.

‘She was beautiful inside and out and she truly shone when she entered a room. She was never aware of the impact that she had on so many just by smiling at them.

‘We will always miss her smile, her laughter and those beautiful curls. Her happy outlook on life was contagious.’

Kurd was also recorded on a security camera as he escaped from the scene at the rear of the shop.

Ali, Hassan and Ms Ljevleva bought 26.6 litres of unleaded from a petrol station the day before the blast.

Ali and Ms Ljevleva also purchased smoke alarms from B&Q and four litres of white spirit from Wilko.

In the aftermath of the tragedy, Kurd even shamelessly gave interviews to media outlets describing how he was lucky to escape the blaze. 

He said: ‘I couldn’t breathe. Everywhere I could see fire, like I was inside hell. It was a big noise. I found myself going up and then to the floor. For two or three minutes I couldn’t feel anything. 

‘I was shouting ‘Viktorija, Viktorija’. I can’t believe what has happened. I don’t know how I survived. For some reason God has decided to keep me alive. I know I am extremely lucky.’

During the trial, David Herbert QC, prosecuting, said the blast was so loud that people living near by thought that a bomb had gone off.

He added that it ‘did not bother these defendants one bit’ that a family were in the flat enjoying their Sunday evening.

He said: ‘It was an explosion caused by many, many litres of petrol. It was deliberate.

‘It was a plan to profit from a false insurance claim for loss of stock, contents and future loss of business from the shop that was on the ground floor.

CCTV also captured Hassan paying in cash for the petrol, which triggered a massive explosion

CCTV also captured Hassan paying in cash for the petrol, which triggered a massive explosion

Kurd (pictured after the blast) intended to claim against an over-inflated insurance policy 

Kurd (pictured after the blast) intended to claim against an over-inflated insurance policy 

The Zabka Polish supermarket, which was destroyed, is pictured prior to the explosion

The Zabka Polish supermarket, which was destroyed, is pictured prior to the explosion

‘Evidence indicates that had the crime been successful the insurance claim would have been in the region of £300,000. 

‘In part it boils down to greed. It is a case of murder.’ 

High Court judge Mr Justice Holgate remanded all three men in custody until sentencing in mid-January.

‘For some reason God has decided to keep me alive’: Shameless killer gave interviews describing how lucky he was to escape the blaze 

Aram Kurd, one of the killers - pictured in a witness interview - had described how he was lucky to escape the blaze

Aram Kurd, one of the killers – pictured in a witness interview – had described how he was lucky to escape the blaze

One of the three killers shamelessly gave interviews to media outlets describing how he was lucky to escape the shop explosion.

Aram Kurd, who was today convicted of murder and plotting to claim a £300,000 insurance pay-out, claimed after the blast in Leicester that it was ‘like I was inside hell’.

Kurd, who was convicted of conspiring with shop worker Viktorija Ijevleva to make a gain, said: ‘I couldn’t breathe. Everywhere I could see fire, like I was inside hell.

‘It was a big noise. I found myself going up and then to the floor. For two or three minutes I couldn’t feel anything. I was shouting ‘Viktorija, Viktorija’.

‘I can’t believe what has happened. I don’t know how I survived. For some reason God has decided to keep me alive. I know I am extremely lucky.’

Kurd, who owned the Polish supermarket, was also recorded on a security camera as he escaped from the scene at the rear of the shop.

Tragic Leicester owner helped father whose wife and sons died in the blast

A heartbroken father whose wife and two sons were killed in the Leicester explosion told how the late Leicester FC helped him through his own darkest hours.

Speaking after the death of Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha in a helicopter crash outside the King Power Stadium in October, Jose Ragoobeer delivered a tearful tribute.

Mr Ragoobeer’s wife Mary, 46, and two sons Shane, 18, and Sean, 17, were killed in the explosion in February, leaving him devastated.

Jose Ragoobeer, outside Leicester Crown Court today

Leicester owner Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha, who died in a helicopter crash in October, had provided support to a father whose wife and two sons were killed in the February blast

Jose Ragoobeer (left, outside Leicester Crown Court today) was supported by Leicester City owner Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha (right), who later died in a helicopter crash in October

In the days that followed, Mr Srivaddhanaprabha, who died in a tragic helicopter crash moments after taking off from the city’s home ground on Saturday, offered the family help.

And Mr Ragoobeer told ITV: ‘I recently lost my wife and sons in a fire and they have been good to me

‘They’ve been very supportive. They even gave me the hall for the wake and this is a big shock for me.’

Leicester shop blast killers ‘were motivated by purely financial greed and personal gain’ 

A trio of killers who lit 26 litres of petrol in the basement of a shop to benefit from a £330,000 pay-out were motivated purely by greed.

Arkan Ali, Hawkar Hassan and Aram Kurd intended to claim against an over-inflated insurance policy on the Polish supermarket on Hinckley Road in Leicester after the devastating explosion.

The investigation into the men led police to trawl through over 700 hours of CCTV footage, and examined more than 2,500 exhibits, 1,000 witness statements and 4,000 different lines of inquiry.

Leicestershire Police said shopkeeper Kurd, who gave an account to the media after the blast, ‘probably felt there was a need’ to tell his story in a deceitful bid to cover his tracks.

Emergency services at the scene of the explosion in Leicester in February this year

Emergency services at the scene of the explosion in Leicester in February this year

Speaking of the explosion itself, Detective Chief Inspector Michelle Keen, who led the investigation, said: ‘The evidence we have identified is that this was a significant amount of petrol – significant such that it caused that level of devastation and five people lost their lives.’

Describing the CCTV evidence, Ms Keen continued: ‘We know there were acts of planning – we don’t know whether they knew about the cameras.

‘Certainly some cameras were moved in an attempt to avoid detection but we will never truly know what was in their mind as they haven’t told us.’

Asked about Kurd’s accounts to the media, Ms Keen said: ‘Clearly, at the outset, the devastation was such that it was unknown as to what the cause was.

‘There were a number of possibilities – one of those was a criminal act, but in those early stages we really didn’t know what caused it.

‘As part of that a number of people were spoken to, and certainly at the scene he (Kurd) was spoken to as a witness and obviously, at that time, he also gave an account to the media as well.’

Ms Keen added: ‘It was clearly deceitful and a bid to almost cover up what had actually gone on and what his knowledge and involvement was.’

Addressing why Kurd chose to speak to the media after the explosion, Ms Keen said: ‘There’s probably a curiosity as to where the investigation is going and what we know.

‘Also, social media and the media is so much more high profile and available that he probably felt like there was a need to put some sort of account across in some way to portray their innocence at an early stage.’

Speaking of the motive behind the killings, Ms Keen said: ‘The motive would seem to be purely financial greed and personal gain.

‘The intention was to claim against an over-inflated insurance policy for business interruption and contents.

‘There was significant investment into the shop’s set-up and it is evident that it wasn’t as profitable as expected. This led to the subsequent fire and explosion.’

When asked about victim Viktorija Ijevleva’s involvement in the insurance claim, Ms Keen continued: ‘Of course, Viktoria sadly lost her life as a result of this incident so we are unable to understand exactly her full knowledge of what was to come.

‘And, the fact is, she is unable to be complicit in her own murder.’

Read more at DailyMail.co.uk


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